by Katy Tessman, New School Services Project Manager and Makerspace Specialist
Millennials have a bad reputation for being lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed. But since 2015, a group of young people have been working hard to make the U.S. government accountable for their involvement in climate change. These 21 young Juliana plaintiffs, ranging in age from 11 to 23, aren’t asking for payback. They want the courts to demand that federal agencies end policies that directly hurt the environment. These young people have raised awareness of the climate emergency by visiting schools, organizing rallies, and speaking at conferences in the U.S. and internationally. They believe the government is required by law to protect and preserve the public trust, which includes the atmosphere, the land, and the waters we rely on for life.
In 1970, Earth Day originated when scientists realized the impact of 150 years of industrial development on the planet. Air pollution and toxic dumping of industrial waste were some of the issues that needed to be changed. This April 22nd will be the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world that gives people an opportunity to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
Not unlike the environmental scientists of 1970, the young self-starters of the youth climate lawsuit are celebrating Earth Day every day. They are reminding the nation that the government is required by the Constitution to protect the rights of young people and children, including their fundamental right to life and liberty. By permitting and authorizing the emission of greenhouse gasses that it knows to be the cause of climate change, the government is violating its duty and its citizens’ constitutional rights.
There have been several new books published that issue a call to action, encourage young people to be part of the change, and celebrate our Earth’s beauty. These three new books can help students celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and get inspired to be part of the fight for everyone’s future.
UNSTOPPABLE by Adam Rex (Interest Level: PS-K, Chronicle Books, 2020)
This is a perfect read-aloud book for children interested in animals, the environment, and political action. Adam Rex’s humorous text along with Laura Park’s colorful illustrations create an insightful picture book about celebrating the ways we are all unique, and how by joining together and being resourceful, any group can save the day. Unstoppable provides a timely lesson on the glories of diversity and the power of working together.
OVERVIEW: YOUNG EXPLORER’S EDITION: A NEW WAY OF SEEING EARTH by Benjamin Grant (Interest Level: 3-7, Crown Books for Young Readers 2019)
Overview is a celebration of Earth’s natural beauty. This book is full of extraordinary aerial photographs that illustrate what astronauts see when they look down at our planet—a vibrant surface shining against the blackness of space. In addition to the planet’s brilliance, these photographs also show the surprising and destructive ways humans have impacted the Earth. Readers will see that everything is interconnected and will get inspired to take care of our one and only home.
EARTH DAY AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: STANDING UP FOR EARTH by Christy Peterson (Interest Level: 8-12, Twenty-First Century Books, 2020)
Science and technology children’s book author Christy Peterson penned this new nonfiction book for secondary students. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated with over twenty million people showing their support for environmental protection. It was the largest nationwide event ever, and lawmakers took notice. But 50 years later, climate change remains a concern. This book explains the divide between political parties and how environmental policy has become an increasingly partisan issue. It describes how disinformation has made climate change a debatable idea, rather than a scientific fact. A new generation of advocates continues the fight to make environmental policy a top priority for the United States and for nations around the globe.
Matheson, K. (March 20, 2019) “How 21 Young People Keep Winning Against the US Gov for Climate Change.” Youth v Gov. Retrieved from: https://www.youthvgov.org/blog/2019/3/20/how-21-young-people-keep-winning-against-the-us-gov-for-climate-change
Robinson, M. (n.d.) “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Kelsey Juliana.” Time. Retrieved from: https://time.com/collection/time-100-next-2019/5718896/xiuhtezcatl-martinez-kelsey-juliana/
Wright, D. (October 22, 2019) “Global citizen science effort marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.” Earth Day Network. Retrieved from: https://www.earthday.org/2019/10/22/global-citizen-science-50th-anniversary-of-earth-day/
(n.d.) “Our Case.” Youth v Gov. Retrieved from: https://www.youthvgov.org/our-case